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Original Research

Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder in a Population-Based Sample of Active Canadian Military Personnel

D. Jolene Kinley, MA; John R. Walker, PhD, C Psych; Corey S. Mackenzie, PhD, C Psych; and Jitender Sareen, MD, FRCPC

Published: January 15, 2011

Article Abstract

Background: The factors contributing to psychiatric problems among military personnel, particularly for panic, are unclear. The objective of this study was to examine the prevalence and correlates of panic disorder and panic attacks in the Canadian military.

Method: Statistics Canada and the Department of National Defense conducted the Canadian Community Health Survey-Canadian Forces Supplement in 2002 (May to December) with a representative sample of active Canadian military personnel (aged 16-54 years; N = 8,441; response rate, 81.5%). Comparisons were made between respondents with no past-year panic attacks, panic attacks without panic disorder, and panic disorder on measures of DSM-IV mental disorders, as well as validated measures of disability, distress, suicidal ideation, perceived need for mental health treatment, and mental health service use. Lifetime exposure to combat operations, witnessing of atrocities, and deployments were also assessed.

Results: Panic disorder and panic attacks were common in the military population, with past-year prevalence estimates of 1.8% and 7.0%, respectively. Both panic disorder and panic attacks were associated with increased odds of all mental disorders assessed, suicidal ideation, 2-week disability, and distress. Perceived need for mental health treatment and service use were common in individuals with panic attacks and panic disorder (perceived need: 46.3% for panic attacks, 89.6% for panic disorder; service use: 32.5% for panic attacks, 74.5% for panic disorder).

Conclusions: Panic attacks and panic disorder in the military are associated with outcomes that could be detrimental to well-being and work performance, and early detection of panic in this population could help reduce these negative outcomes.

J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72(1):66-74

Submitted: August 2, 2009; accepted December 14, 2009(doi:10.4088/JCP.09m05587blu).

Corresponding author: Jitender Sareen, MD, FRCPC, PZ-430 PsycHealth Centre, 771 Bannatyne Ave, Winnipeg, MB, Canada, R3E 3N4 (

Volume: 72

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